McClure v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
Following a jury trial, Carlos McClure was found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault based on an indictment that charged him with assaulting Armando Cuevas and Jamie Thun with a lever-action BB rifle by aiming the gun at them. McClure requested that the jury be instructed on the affirmative defenses of justification in defense of self and justification in defense of habitation. The trial court refused to give the requested instructions on justification on the basis that McClure, who testified that he carried the BB gun during an encounter with the victims but denied pointing the gun at them, could not both deny that he performed the act of pointing the gun at someone and at the same time argue that he was justified in performing that act. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that, because McClure did not admit to aiming the BB gun at the victims, an element of aggravated assault as charged, he was not entitled to an instruction on any affirmative defense. The Georgia Supreme Court determined a criminal defendant was not required to “admit” anything, in the sense of acknowledging that any particular facts are true, in order to raise an affirmative defense. “To the extent a defendant in raising an affirmative defense accepts for the sake of argument that he committed the act alleged in a charge, the defendant may do so only for the limited purpose of raising the affirmative defense at issue.” The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded to the Court of Appeals for consideration of whether the trial court erred in failing to give the requested instructions regarding the affirmative defenses of justification, that is, whether the theory of the instructions was supported by at least slight evidence, and, if so, whether any such instructional error was harmful.